Answering Some Objections to the Protests in Madison
A Smaller --- But no Less Important --- Assembly of Protest Folks for Saturday, March 19, 2011
I've Noticed Some Angry Objections to the Wisconsin Rally and Protest Against Scott Walker's "Budget Repair" Bill
Even some of my fellow Hubbers have expressed some outrage over the anti-Walker protests --- which have so far continued for over a month, although no longer inside the Capitol.
Those folks all have a perfect right to their opinion, and they have a right to have their opinion treated with respect. I would never say somebody is wrong simply because she or he disagrees with me. I would just say we disagree, but we can still be friends. (Please don't mistake this for the dreadful "Let's agree to disagree" baloney, popular among social workers with axes to grind, and others who have an agenda. They're not friends. But, I digress.)
But, I think it's always a matter of looking at the particular issue, and of looking at whether or not someone is really honest, sincere and acting in good faith.
Many folks have an ideology that they live by, and that's fine. Everyone is entitled to that --- assuming it isn't causing harm..
But, the end can never justify the means.
When it comes to individual issues, we always have to make decisions by looking at the issue in context ---- and, not just whether or not it will promote a particular ideology.
Then again, some ideologies are based on bigotry and scapegoating. Bigotry and scapegoating are forms of hatred and discrimination. They are based on distortion of the true facts.
Hence, the importance of facts.
Always look to facts instead of interpretation of the facts. When you're looking to the facts, consider the source.
Wisconsin For Sale
- That the protesters are union thugs.
- That the protesters are from outside of Madison, or Wisconsin --- "outside agitators".
- The the protest damaged the Capitol building --- possibly to the tune of $7.5 million (later downgraded to $350k.)
- That the budget must be balanced, no matter what --- or disaster will ensue.
- That the protesters are an angry, out-of-control mob.
- That unions have bankrupted the private sector, and now public worker unions are running rampant over our government revenue and "taxpayers" --- therefore, causing the downfall of our once great and famous nation. (Okay, well, this isn't so much a criticism of the protest itself, but of the underlying rationale for the protests.)
- That only communists, terrorists and socialists talk about taxing the rich. Therefore, it must not be mentioned, or even thought of. It's like the elephant in the living room. (Same as number six parenthetical remark.)
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"Assembly Bill 40 . . .
1. The Protesters are Thugs Paid by Unions
Not even close.
It's a true, organic, working-class movement, led by the people.
It actually got started when Scott Walker announced --- on Friday, February 11 --- what would be in the bill.
There was a big Badger game coming up over the weekend. Some folks have suggested that Walker perhaps hoped the game would distract people's attention from his terrible news.
On Monday, February 14, many people showed up at the Capitol to protest against the bill's harshness. There was a public hearing for people to voice their objections. Many waited all evening for their turn to speak at the public hearing.
Also on February 14, Walker sent a letter to Marty Biele, president of the Dane County AFSCME local, announcing that the budget repair bill would release the state from its obligations under the collective bargaining agreement.
While people were still waiting to speak at the hearing, somebody announced that the hearing was over. No more comments from the public. But, there were still lots of folks waiting in line.
They were about to leave when a college girl grabbed the microphone and told them not to give up and just walk away like that. She got the folks energized, and the whole thing just happened by itself.
The folks who had been waiting to speak at the public hearing did not leave, and the hearing stayed open for more than a week.
That was the original reason for the protest and sleep-in --- or whatever you want to call it.
Recently, there was a labor "teach-in" at a local Methodist church.
Jim Cavanaugh, president of the South Central Wisconsin Federation of Labor said that the union bosses didn't know anything about the protest in Madison at first, and they do not know what to expect next. They were trying to learn from the protesters. They don't know what will happen next. They are waiting to find out.
Many union workers are showing up at the protests in solidarity, but they aren't getting paid by their locals for that. They're here on their own ---- just like the Department of Corrections worker I quote in my earlier hub.
On that other hub, I also quote a seventy-two year old retired teacher, complaining about being called "a thug."
"It's About Freedom"
2. The Protesters are Outside Agitators
After this became an issue, many started carrying signs telling where they were from. Most protesters seemed to be from Wisconsin, actually.
Not that there's much science to it.
I'm certainly from Madison. My kids and I moved here in 1983. My youngest was born here in 1991, and two of my grandkids were born here, as well.
Of course people were also coming from all over.
They were also ordering pizzas from all over, as well.
Ian's Pizza --- about a half block from the Capitol --- kept bringing pizzas over for the protesters to eat. One day the Ian's Pizza delivery guy announced there had been orders from --- I don't know how many states, perhaps twenty seven --- plus more than fifty foreign countries --- "even Antarctica".
I was there the day the guy made the announcement. I couldn't see him. I was up on the higher level, but I did hear him. Apparently John Nichol must have heard him, as well, because he mentions it in his article for The Nation magazine, "The Spirit of Wisconsin".
People are interested in this all over the world because many feel that they have to push back against what is a kind of creeping fascism. This might be the people's last chance to push back.
During the prank phone call --- when Walker thought he was talking to a billionaire contributor, but it was really a blogger in New York (calling via Skype, no less ?!?) --- Walker stated that he was well aware that once Wisconsin workers lost their rights to bargain collectively, the rest of the states would fall like dominoes. (Back in the cold war days, we knew "the domino effect" was to be avoided, not pursued. But, I digress.)
Scott Walker claimed that his emails are overwhelmingly in favor of the budget repair bill. When a local journalist asked to see those emails, the governor's office refused. Then the court ordered them to release those alleged emails based on the Freedom of Information Act complaint filed by a local journalist.
Turns out most of the emails that support Walker are from out of state. Not only that, but most of them started around the time he made the announcement that he was getting more favorable than unfavorable emails. Before that, the anti-Walker emails were leading.
Hmmmm . . . go figure.
2(b) The Real Outside Agitators
The Koch Brothers --- Charles and David, are the real outside agitators.
They bought the election for Scott Walker in November of 2010.
Right after he was elected, they set up a lobbying office on Capitol Square ---- across from our beloved state Capitol Building.
They will be buying thirty Wisconsin generating plants for one dollar ($1) each, if the bill somehow continues.
Of course, we're hoping that doesn't happen. There are many challenges on many fronts, to make sure it doesn't happen.
Whether you are in Wisconsin or not, please get involved. Everybody can do something, even if it's just talking to folks. I've included a few links on this Hub, and many more on my two earlier Hubs: AFSCME and the Wisconsin St. Valentine's Day Massacre; and The Nightmare at Capitol Square ~ Scotty's Revenge.
March 19, 2011
3. The Protest Caused Damage to the Capitol Building
This allegation goes with the ones about union thugs and outside agitators. Taken together, these three things combine to create the mistaken impression that the protests or rallies are lawless, angry, out-of-control and created by some lunatic fringe.
On the contrary, the protesters and rally folks are trying to stand up to the lunatic fringe that has taken over our state.
They are the outsiders.
They are the thugs.
They are the angry extremists.
They are the lawless ones.
The $7.5 million figure got started by the director of the Wisconsin Department of Administration --- a Walker appointee. I remember wondering where the heck that figure came from. Because nothing at the Capitol is different.
I've lived in Madison since 1983, and I walk through or to go the Capitol several times a month, at least. My son learned to crawl on its marble steps. He's nineteen now.
That amount was soon downgraded to $350k.
Well, getting warmer, --- but still ---- for what?
There was an information station set up inside the Capitol. They told us to be sure to not use regular tape on the marble walls to hang our signs. We would have to get a special blue tape from the information station. As far as I know, that's what everybody did. All signs were hung with the special blue tape. It was a kind of crinkly blue paper tape.
I found out from an article in a local newspaper last week that it's painter's tape. Didn't know it had a name.
That same article said that a Wisconsin masonry and stone expert --- who does contracting with the state --- claimed there's no damage at all, except perhaps a little caused by media taping their cords to the floor.
"I Have Seen the Face of Democracy . . .
Signs at Local Businesses
4. The Budget Must Be Balanced, or Disaster Will Ensue
First, this is not true.
I was talking to a guy from Milwaukee --- where Scott Walker was county executive before the Koch Brothers bought the gubernatorial election for him. He said this was always the theme of his administration in Milwaukee County. The sky is falling, the sky is falling --- that's how this gentleman characterized Walker's "budget" rhetoric.
Walker fired people with experience and expertise, in order to give county jobs to his cronies. He tried to start up a political office in a county building.
Walker only got twenty percent of the vote in Milwaukee County, in the gubernatorial November 2010 election. Milwaukee County voters were the ones who knew him the most. They voted for him the least.
Second, if it were true, the best way to balance the budget would be to tax the rich. Their tax burden has been going down for a few years. The deficit could be fixed immediately if the richest would pay their fair share --- or even as much as they did three years ago.
On Saturday, February 19, 2011, I ran into two retired teachers who had driven up from Chicago in order to join the protest and rally. We discussed the rally a little bit in a coffee shop on the square. They had only come for a few hours, and were going to drive right back.
They said it was a false economy to just look at the budget as if it were a "zero-sum" game. The main resources available are the work, labor and energy of the people. Those things create the resources that can balance the budget.
I said I recalled a history instructor who told us that all governments always run a deficit. It's nothing unusual. They agreed with this former instructor of mine. I don't really know enough about this to have an opinion.
But, I don't think Scott Walker has a degree in economics, either. He has no degree at all. He suddenly left Marquette University before his last semester. Some folks say he was caught cheating.
Another way to stimulate the economy is to raise the minimum wage. When was the last time that happened in this country? It used to be an annual event. But, I guess I'm just telling my age when I talk like that.
Proud Union Member
March 19, 2011
5. The Protesters are an Angry, Out-of-Control Mob
Also delineated in numbers one, two and three, above.
Actually, I have lived in Madison for twenty eight (28) years, and I've seen people gather for many sports events, protests, Halloween Freak Fests, graduations, plays, operas, speeches, political campaigns --- you name it.
I have really never seen such courtesy, kindness, consideration and thoughtfulness as I have at this rally and protest. During the week I stayed at the Capitol --- from February 17 thru February 24th --- it was sometimes so crowded in the rotunda, you couldn't move without stepping on someone's feet.
Nevertheless, one person would say, "Oh, excuse me. I'm so sorry."
The other one would say, "Hey, no problem. My fault. I'm sorry."
Not just once or twice, but all the time --- the whole week. And, in fact, even now, ever since. There are still rallies going on every day and evening. Mostly, they pick up on the weekends, though.
Even though parking has been scarce on some days, everyone has been incredibly patient, polite, tolerant. (Madisonians are very polite anyway, but sometimes the out of town folks aren't so much.) Everyone walking down the street, or parking their cars has some sort of anti-Walker sign. (Not that pro-Walker folks would be mistreated. That's what democracy is about. They have a right, as well.)
There's a feeling that we're all in it together.
Hence, the one sign that said, "Hey, Scotty, thanks for bringing us all together. You can go now."
6.(a) That unions have bankrupted the private sector, and now they want to do the same to "taxpayers". Part 1.
Public workers who belong to a union ARE taxpayers. I don't understand why pundits keep repeating the mantra: "Public union members vs. Taxpayers."
Could it be a "divide and conquer" strategy?
Average citizens scapegoating other average citizens?
That's how racism was invented in the first place. And, we all know what a great success racism has been, and how productive it has been for our country.
Recall Walker. Kill the Bill
6.(b) Unions Causing Bankruptcy of Private Sector. Part 2
Well, this is an especially pernicious little fairy tale, because it transposes cause with effect. The elements are there, but it's a kind of anagram of the true story.
Actually, what really happened is that corporations started taking their factories to foreign countries in search of lower taxes and anti-union legislation. Corporations actually made preconditions with certain third-world governments.
The government would enact laws prohibiting union organizing before the American or European companies would move their factories to that country. In the meantime --- as part of the same process --- the people would be deprived of their sustainability because of erosion of topsoil and destruction of the local environment.
These things together meant the destruction of the local society, culture and way of life.
So, the U.S. and European companies had a complete, ready-made wage-slave system in place before that factory even opened.
It's pretty much like London in the time of Charles Dickens. Everybody agrees that time was very bad for Londoners.
London is no longer like that --- But, it hasn't gone away.
It just moved away from London.
As far as bankruptcy goes, these corporations first moved their factories to the third-world, undeveloped countries. Then, made the third-world country's people dependent on the factory jobs "provided".
After that, THEN they proceeded to declare bankruptcy at home in order to raid the pension funds of the few workers who may have been left in the few union jobs left in this country.
Union workers bankrupted corporations?
Corporations deliberately declared bankruptcy in order to avoid paying their debts. At the same time, they obtained low taxes and cheap labor overseas.
Actually, it's a little euphemistic to say "cheap labor". It's really slavery, because the people have already been deprived of any other options.
Sometimes --- well, usually --- the local military gets involved, as well, but that's a whole different sub-topic.
7. Never Discuss Taxing the Rich. It's Heresy.
One percent of the people control seventy percent of the resources and wealth.
I actually am very fond of Walker's pro-life record.
I still feel the same way about all the above issues, though.
Our country does not have enough young people. If we had more young people, perhaps many of these above issues would be resolved.
Yes, I guess I'm crazy.
Well, this is still the U.S.A.